That Birch is beautiful.
It’s 50 feet tall and its trunk is eight inches in diameter. The sun shines softly on one face of the tree, illuminating the creamy, papery bark. Bits of greenish-grey lichen cling to the lower part of the tree. Short, soft moss carpets the base of the tree and extends outwards onto the forest floor. Last year’s leaves are found scattered about, poking through the melting snow. I can smell the decaying leaves and the warming dirt. Spring is here.
It’s time to tap.
I have returned to the same five trees that I have tapped last year. It’s a perfect day too, sunny and warm. I have my drill, my drill bits, my buckets, my spiles and tubing. I set to work, drilling a hole in each tree. I place the new hole a bit higher and a few inches over from last year’s hole: standard operating procedure.
The clear watery sap comes forth right away and starts dripping down the tree. I place the spile into the tree, place one end of the tubing onto the spile and the other end into the bucket. I wait for the drip, drip, drip, sound that should hit the bottom of each bucket. I hear it. Pleased, I pack up my tools and head back to the road where I parked my van.
As I drive away, I see so many more Birch trees with the sun glinting off its creamy white papery bark. I want to tap them all. The sap is cool and refreshing. It’s full of amino acids, as well as minerals, enzymes, proteins, betulinic acid, betulin, antioxidants, sugars, and vitamins. I drink the sap as a tonic while the sap runs clear. When the sap turns cloudy, I know the season is finished.
However, what I’m really tapping the sap for is to turn it into Birch Syrup. Delicious, dark, sweet syrup. Some people say Birch syrup takes like concentrated prune juice. Some people say it tastes like that ol’ taffy you could get at Halloween, horror hound taffy (they don’t make it any more). I find it tastes like a blend of slightly burnt caramels and molasses. It’s nothing like maple syrup. It’s good though, in its own way.
I treat my syrup like liquid gold. I only make about a liter a year, and I process about 120 liters of sap to get that one-liter of syrup. Also, if time allows and I collect enough (23 extra liters), I plan to make a batch of Birch sap wine. I really should be tapping more trees. Perhaps this week, I’ll find some more spiles, tubing and buckets. I could have sworn I told myself this last year to have more for this year. For now, I have to hope the sap runs abundantly.
I’ll be back tomorrow, or at least every other day to collect the sap. Rain or shine.